Still here, Still alive: Hightide Store LAMarch 31, 2023
Have you ever wondered how some people withstand the amount of pressure operating a business? Working through the long hours and staying on top of little details that could slip by is no easy feat. How everyone handles burnout is different. Some have activities to alleviate the mental stress, others have support from their friends and family, and some are “built different,” literally.
I think a key attribute of being “built different” is cultural upbringing. Everyone’s upbringing is a different set of concepts and values that strengthen their mentality. We can look to other countries to get a glimpse of their cultures and the unique values that strengthen them. We can see those concepts when they’re brought here in Los Angeles from those who have immigrated, and those who want to expand business here. With that said I want to introduce you to a shop I discovered this past year called the HIGHTIDE STORE.
Yuichi Munehiro is the owner and founder of Hightide USA, which is the first overseas branch of the parent company HIGHTIDE which was established in Fukuoka, Japan in 1994. Specializing in office supplies and stationery, the products evoke American and European nostalgia while keeping in step with a particular Japanese aesthetic and style.
Hightide is an umbrella brand that encompasses a number of product lines, each with its own distinct style and purpose. From diary planners to classic notebooks, retro style pens to timeless hourglasses. They also offer daily essentials from various Japanese makers, their uses ranging from the office, to school, to home; from leather glasses cases to playful stickers.
HIGHTIDE STORE DTLA opened in the summer of 2017, and CORNERSHOP BROOKLYN followed in 2021. Both stores are inspired by a bunbogu-ya, a local stationery store that always existed near a school, a place familiar to anyone who grew up in Japan. In these small stores, shelves were crammed with notebooks, pencils, erasers, pen cases, cheap sweets, and toys. For students with little pocket money, these stores served as a place to hang out, alone or with friends. The purpose of establishing these stores was to bring that feeling of closeness and culture of home right here in the states.
Q: There’s a significant pressure that’s placed on you and Mr. Yuichi to keep the doors open, fulfill the surge of online orders, and put up more physical and mental energy over the pandemic. What kind of burnout did you experience? While you both experienced this prolonged strain, how are you both still standing?
Yuichi Munehiro: Even though I might be the CEO, we have a small team, so I end up touching on almost every aspect of the day to day operations. Alongside Plex Lowery, our General Manager, and an amazing staff, I’ve been able to pull through somehow! *laughs* Two concepts we always try to keep in mind is 余裕 (yoyuu) and 覚悟 (kakugo). Yoyuu is broadly the idea of energy that you can afford something, or the will to do something. While kakugo loosely translates to duty, or the resignation that you have committed to doing something, and will see it through to the end. Those ideals are what keeps us balanced and allows clarity when faced with burnout.
Plex Lowery: As for me, I honestly have to say that I haven’t really experienced a high level of burnout or fatigue working, namely because watching both the way that Munehiro-san balances the work atmosphere here and makes it enjoyable to work in, and the incredible staff we have. I know it’s a bit cliche to say at this point, but the main concern we all had during the Covid lockdowns was, “Is this the new normal, is this ever going to end? And will we still be around when it does?” I know that is doubly so for Munehiro-san, considering he was keeping the business afloat remotely almost completely on his own, and no one knew when things were going to level out. I’d have to say the importance of finding a job that’s a good fit that allows you the room to breathe, and also colleagues that you can depend on and trust cannot be overstated. It’s the most crucial thing for me, and I do not take it for granted.